New Friends New Life, a Dallas-based nonprofit that supports formerly trafficked and sexually exploited women, teens, and children, has announced that its annual luncheon will be held virtually on Sep. 18 due to COVID-19 safety concerns.
The luncheon will honor this year’s ProtectHER Award Recipients — Natalie Nanasi, the director of the Judge Elmo B. Hunter Legal Center for Victims of Crimes Against Women and a SMU assistant professor of law, and Brittany K. Barnett, an author, entrepreneur, and attorney committed to pro bono work and criminal justice system reform.
Also featuring a conversation with sex trafficking survivor and criminal justice reform advocate Cyntoia Brown-Long, the online event will be co-chaired by NFNL Board of Directors members Jane A. Rose, who resides in Preston Hollow, and Park Cities’ Jessica Turner Waugh. Community advocates and Park Cities residents Elizabeth and Eric Gambrell will preside as honorary co-chairs.
“As we navigate the production of a virtual luncheon experience, our team embraces this new format with creativity and excitement for the new opportunities it presents, including an expanded reach of our mission,” NFNL CEO Kim Robinson said in a statement. “We are excited to welcome our speaker and honor our award recipients, who together shine a light on the importance of criminal justice reform and the many injustices faced by those who are trafficked.”
Robinson said that NFNL has referred many survivors to award recipient Nanasi, who also currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Human Rights Initiative of North Texas and the Dallas Area Rape Crisis Center.
“In 2019, 75 percent of our members had a criminal record of some kind — a formidable barrier for them to finding conventional employment, housing, and building a new life,” Robinson said. “We are thrilled to honor Natalie, who is making a critical difference in their ability to make a fresh start.”
In a statement, Nansai said that NFNL clients’ criminal records are a result of the trafficking they endured.
“From theft to drug and prostitution convictions, none of their interactions with the criminal justice system have occurred outside of the context of their victimization,” Nanasi said. “It is an honor to help survivors navigate the legal system and work with them to clear their records, and I am humbled to be recognized for standing beside these brave women.”
Fellow recipient Barnett, who has experienced firsthand the impact of mass incarceration as the daughter of a formerly incarcerated mother, also said that many NFNL members have faced the criminal justice system — and that those impacted by incarceration and trafficking must be empowered and at the center of the movements surrounding them.
“Women and girls and their diverse stories and perspectives are too often ignored but are critical to drive impactful change,” said Barnett, who has also founded two nonprofit organizations, the Buried Alive Project and Girls Embracing Mothers. “It is an honor to be a recipient of the ProtectHER Award and help amplify the voices of these amazing women.”
Robinson said that NFNL is delighted to celebrate Barnett’s achievements. “Her resilience and determination have helped her overcome obstacles that could have easily made her a product of her environment,” she said. “Instead, she is breaking through barriers on behalf of others, changing lives in the process.”
The NFNL community has experienced additional challenges this year due to emotional and economic losses, according to Robinson, and it’s led to traffickers trying to capitalize on their hardships.
“While we cannot physically be together on September 18, we can unite virtually, working together to serve as a catalyst for change,” Robinson said. “Please join us on September 18 to ‘stand for her’ and help us restore hope to so many trapped in this illegal industry.”